Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The King and the Hoard

Picture from the must-see Guder og Grave web site on the Danish Bronze Age.

In the December issue of excellent Danish pop-sci archaeology bimonthly Skalk, Bente & Jens Henrik Jønsson tell the tragicomical story of Denmark's largest Early Bronze Age hoard find.

The Smørumovre hoard dates from Montelius's Period II (15th or 14th century BC). It came to light in 1851 near Copenhagen when farmer Peter Sørensen was digging a ditch to drain a bog. He collected 163 bronze objects, most of them axeheads and spearheads, and dutifully took them to the Museum for Nordic Antiquities in town. At this time the museum was still headed by Christian Jürgensen Thomsen, the father of archaeology, and housed in a wing of the Christiansborg royal castle. Unfortunately, the museum wasn't open on the day when Sørensen came to call. Instead he was told that there was another person around who collected antiquities and might be interested: King Frederick VII.

Frederick received farmer Sørensen, took a look at the find and immediately bought every single piece of it. This meant that the hoard didn't enter the state collection housed in the museum, but became the property of the king himself. He promptly commissioned an excellent publication of the find by J.J.A. Worsaae, which appeared in 1853. And then, in 1859, the royal apartments at Frederiksborg castle burned down and the king's collection was largely destroyed.

Today, 68 pieces from the Smørumovre hoard survive, most of them fire-damaged to some extent, with splotches of lead from the roof of Frederiksborg. If you didn't already know, you can now see that monarchy is wrong.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, if it had been a president, I guess it would have proved that republic is equally wrong. ;)

14 December, 2006 09:43  

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